In a surprise move, Indiana officials said they were not ready to approve toll rates for the Ohio River Bridges Project, which could end up costing Kentucky taxpayers or commuters.
The bi-state tolling body was expected to approve toll rates Thursday morning, which will be used to pay for the new East End and downtown bridges and for the reworking of Spaghetti Junction. Instead, Indiana officials removed the item from the agenda. Afterward, spokesman Will Wingfield told media the state just wasn’t prepared.
“With the short Labor Day weekend we had difficulty getting everything together necessary that [we] needed to. There’s some legal documents we have, in terms of making sure we have everything in place to make this happen, and we don’t want to rush this important decision,” Wingfield said.
The move by Indiana shouldn’t be seen as opposition to suggested tolls rates that were released last week. According to the traffic and revenue study, recommended tolls should range between $1 to $12 to help pay for the project costs.
Amounts commuters should expect to pay depend on the size of the vehicle and mode used for crossing, the study suggests.
But Kentucky needs tolls to be set to move forward with finding investors to help support its side of the project, which includes a new downtown I-65 bridge and reworking the current I-65 and Spaghetti junction.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock, who also sits on the tolling body committee that approves tolls, said that for each day the tolls go unset, interest rates and the cost to the state could increase.
“You could probably tell by the look on my face, I was a little bit surprised. But again, We’ve been working diligently, we’ve been at this thing not quite around the clock but close to it for several weeks,” he said.
Hancock says if interest rates do climb, even a small amount, it could cost Kentucky millions of dollars due to the size and length of the project. Also, the tolling body can change toll rates anytime it wants depending on the needs of the project, and that includes the time between when toll rates are set and when tolls will begin to be collected, which will happen when the bridges open.
“I’m sure there are things I’ll have explained to me that I’ll say, oh, OK, that’s why you did that, and I will be fine with it,” Hancock said.